Mumbai: NGO adopts King's Circle station, cleans up the mess

Adopting a railway station takes hard work, passion and dedication. A city NGO and its labour of love

There's something about King’s Circle. The Harbour Line station which was perpetually dirty and scary for women to travel from at nights, has been sporting a new look for the past two months.

COLOUR MIRAGE: The outer walls of the station have been painted by local children with social messages lining them. PICs/ SAMEER MARKANDE
Colour images: The outer walls of the station have been painted by local children with social messages lining them. Pics/Sameer Markande

The street lights on the road leading to the station are working, there are dustbins on the platforms, the walls are painted and the platforms are much cleaner. “King’s Circle was always a shady station. I would prefer taking a bus to my house near Five Gardens to avoid getting off at King’s Circle. I work at Cotton Green and so train is the best option, but I hated the station. Now there is a tremendous change in the look and feel of the station, which is a big relief,” says media professional, Neha Verma.

GREEN IS IN: NK Sinha (r) and Gaurang Damani (l) in the garden outside the station
GREEN IS IN: NK Sinha (r) and Gaurang Damani (l) in the garden outside the station

Clean and clear
Gaurang Damani who runs Non-government Organisation (NGO) Karmayogi Pratisthan adopted King’s Circle station on December 25, 2014. He says, “For around seven to eight years, I would write letters regularly to the Central Railway about cleanliness issues at King’s Circle station. In August last year, Senior Divisional Operations Manager George Eapen suggested that I adopt the station. I liked the idea, and immediately wrote a letter to the Railways asking for permission to adopt the station.”

PAINTING PROWESS: Volunteers whitewash the walls on Platform 2
PAINTING PROWESS: Volunteers whitewash the walls on Platform 2

By December, Damani got the approval and from Christmas Day, he and his NGO started work to clean the station. For three days, about 40 residents came together and cleaned the platform and the entrances. Via his newsletter, Die Hard Indians, Damani managed to spread the word to residents in the Matunga, King’s Circle and Wadala areas.

“More than 200 people have been involved in the cleaning and painting work at the station in the last two months. We have a sweeper on the payroll who sweeps the platforms and the station premises. NK Sinha, the deputy station superintendent is very cooperative and helps us with all the nitty-gritty,” says Damani.

POTS ON THE SPOT: The bridge that leads from King’s Circle West to the station is lined with plants
POTS ON THE SPOT: The bridge that leads from King’s Circle West to the station is lined with plants

Happy to help
Shreyas Parekh and friends joined Damani in painting platform 2 of King’s Circle. He says, “I use the station daily. This adoption is a path breaking development. Gaurang is a friend and so we were aware of King’s Circle being adopted. Our wives and children joined us in painting the walls.”

Ajay Mehta says, “My daughter uses the station every day on her way to college. If she missed a train she hated waiting on the platform for the next one, because of the lack of hygiene. Now she finds the station much better. I have also found that the stink has disappeared and the station is more colourful.”

“Many people are very curious that King’s Circle has seen a radical change in its appearance in the last couple of months. They appreciate the changes and laud the good work done. For me, it is a matter of great pride to see that the station where I am in charge is being maintained so well by the efforts of locals,” says NK Sinha.

Colours of joy
On January 17, around 44 children from the King’s Circle-Matunga area painted the outer walls of King’s Circle station. The colourful paintings all have a social message and are helping keep the walls spit-free.

Little posters telling commuters not to cross the tracks, not to litter and spit are hung all over the station complex. Also, fliers creating awareness about cleanliness and the need to use the foot overbridge are put up.

Damani says, “Some students from SNDT and JJ School of Art made these posters. Young people are also excited about being a part of the cleanliness project. Before putting up a poster, I have to show them to the station superintendent who okays it. This was the protocol which was decided by the Railways when they allowed me to adopt the station.”

Change is in
For Yasmeen Khan who works at King’s Circle, there has been a major change in the station in the last few months. The banker says, “King’s Circle had a lot of debris on the road leading to the station from the MTNL side, there were also potholes on the road. Now the debris has been cleared and the road has been leveled. Walking from and to the station is easier.”

Padma Tyagi, commutes from King’s Circle to Wadala every day. She says, “The lighting at the station has also improved. I feel much safer coming back late at night. The drug addicts and beggars who were all around also seem to have decreased in number.”

Agreeing with her, Nanak Ombre who also commutes to King’s Circle says, “It is really nice to see a garden coming up outside King’s Circle station on the Western side. The bridge that leads to the station is also beautifully lined with pots. I love getting off at King’s Circle as it is very clean and green now.”

Better civic sense
“The decrease in littering and spitting means that I have made a difference. This is great to see. I have invested my own money and there is also money coming through donations. The fact that my NGO has adopted the station has made many curious and people are helping to keep the station clean as well as to beautify it,” says Damani.

If the Railways allow Damani and his NGO to extend their adoption, he says they will happily continue. “Some Railway officials are telling me to adopt Wadala and Matunga railway stations, too. But right now I want to do a good job here, and then I will consider adopting more stations. Currently, there are many things that need to be done, here at King’s Circle,” says Damani.

“Since Karmayogi have started working on the beautification and cleanliness of the station, the ticket checkers, those working at the ticket counters have all told me that they love working at King’s Circle. The station is clean, well-painted, has clear boards, signage and is well-maintained which is a big difference from the dingy condition that it was earlier in,” says Sinha.

To those who are interested in adopting stations, Damani has this advice to give, “See that you have a good plan in place. Adopting a station is a big ask and task. You need to be able to give your time and energy to ensure that the station you have adopted is well maintained. Also, having a long list of donors and volunteers is a great help.”

CR says credibility is very important
Mukesh Nigam, Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Division, Central Railways says, “King’s Circle station adoption is a great initiative, and example of how a community has come together and taken responsibility of their surroundings. If any individual or NGO comes forward with a genuine request to beautify and clean their station, then Central Railway will definitely look into the matter and allow them to adopt the station. A letter has to be written to the Railways seeking approval and within a week if the person or organisation is credible, we will give permission. We generally give stations for a year, but we are open to extensions.”

Do you want to adopt a railway station?
>> All work should be voluntary.
>> No personal posters should be put up on the station premises.
>> No inconvenience should be caused to trains or commuters.
>> No child labour should be used for the cleanliness.
>> The adoption is experimental and will be reviewed periodically.

Deserving applicants
Sharat Chandrayan, Chief Public Relations Officer, Western Railways says, “We are open to adoption of any station on the line. So far we have not received any applications, but if we do, we will definitely look into the applicant’s request and consider it. If the applicant is deserving and capable of cleaning and beautifying the station we will give permission.”



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